Thinking like Africans in Africa

2013-10-27 10:00

In a presidency of gaffes, this week’s blunder by President Jacob Zuma at an election event in Gauteng was most unfortunate.

In what has become known as his “I am not an African moment”, Zuma attempted to get the residents of Joburg to cough up for e-tolls, possibly the most unpopular measure yet passed by his administration.

Number 1 said the N1 highway between Joburg and Pretoria (all sleek bitumen, good lights and multilanes) was not any old road in Rustenburg, Pietermaritzburg or?...?Malawi. Then, he implored the city’s good residents not to think like Africans in Africa, generally!

Well, this was quickly and obviously compared to the lilting and majestic quality of former president Thabo Mbeki’s speech “I am an African”.

And it grew into a diplomatic crisis when Deputy International Relations Minister Marius Fransman sought an audience with Malawi’s President Joyce Banda to apologise for our gaffe.

This was after South Africa’s ambassador to Malawi, Cassandra Mbuyane-Mokone, was called in for a démarche.

We at City Press believe it’s high time we all start thinking like Africans in Africa because in many spheres, our continental brothers and sisters light a way forward for us.

Here are 10 of our best:

»?Ory Okolloh. This Kenyan director of investments for the Omidyar Network lives in Joburg and we should all make more of her skills. Previously, Okolloh was Google’s policy manager for Africa. She started legendary citizen-voice websites in Kenya, including Ushahidi and Mzalendo;

»?Ali Mufuruki is a Tanzanian business mogul and advocate for a generation of new leaders across the continent through the Africa Leadership Initiative;

»?Dele Olojede. Also Joburg-based, this Nigerian journalist is Africa’s first Pulitzer prizewinner. He started the award-winning media title Next in his home nation;

»?Joyce Banda. The president of Malawi is redefining leadership. She got rid of her jet to pare down government debt and last week fired her entire Cabinet;

»?Salim Ahmed Salim. This Tanzanian from Zanzibar is a leading diplomat and statesman. He serves on the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, was the African Union’s envoy on the Darfur (western Sudan) conflict and served for a short time as Tanzania’s prime minister;

»?Aliko Dangote. His fortune has grown from $3.3?billion in 2007 to $22?billion (R216 billion) this year, according to Forbes. The cement tycoon is spreading his wings into all sectors. Last week, he opened a 1?000-bed state-of-the-art hospital in his hometown of Kano, Nigeria;

»?Razia Khan. This head of research at Standard Chartered is probably the continent’s foremost economic commentator. She hails from neighbouring Botswana;

»?Tony Elumelu. Entrepreneur and banker, he says this of our continent: “The age of aid is ending. The type of aid that will help Africa most and should receive the highest priority is aid for business.” Elumelu puts his money where his mouth is with numerous initiatives to grow new entrepreneurs;

»?Mo Ibrahim. He is not much liked at the moment. He hasn’t awarded a prize for governance to a former head of state for four years now. But Ibrahim remains much admired for helping the continent rethink governance through his yearly index; and

»?Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi. This young writer has won many major literary awards for her works, including Half of a Yellow Sun and most recently her novel Americanah. Adichi is the voice of the 21st century.

In many respects, the continent is running ahead of South Africa. Investors perplexed by our competing economic policies are eyeing the clarity of Nigeria and even of Kenya, which analysts say will rebound quickly from the Westgate shopping centre attack.

In several nations, the crossover to digital terrestrial TV and other services has started, though we still fight about it.

Entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa have better access and better chances than they do here. Leaders like those in Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria and Rwanda, among other nations, are drawn from a younger generation with newer ideas than our leaders, who tend to be in their 60s and 70s.

Across our continent, there are many people, trends and ideas that we would do well to bear in mind, and emulate to grow and prosper.

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